Tri-X and D-76
I can remember when I first started, and the cheapest film/developer combination was Tri-X and D-76. OK. Cheap is not probably the best criteria for image making. But, hey, I was just a dumb teenager. However, it all worked out after all. Considering darkroom equipment is pretty cheap these days, it’s certainly easy enough to experience the wonders of a silver gelatin print. Yeah, yeah, I think “inkjet” prints are just fine. But once you’ve been exposed to a finely made fiber print made in the darkroom, it’s hard to NOT stick to your luddite guns. Or as Ellen von Unwerth once said, “…it’s just not the same.” But, it’s fine to disagree.
I Miss You, Mama
First, I have tried many developers. And I must say, I’ve actually gotten “technically” superior results out of some. Just not MY preferred results. So, scientifically, I have no argument that would lock anyone in on it’s use. Just a subjective,….”Uhhh,…I like it best.” So this article is not to disparage other developers. Not for ease of use or results. But, I do love D-76. However. I also loved my Mama’s Capuzzelle. (which is baked lamb’s head) But I’m also sure other cultures have their idiosyncrasies that I would find disgusting. So, take Tri-X and D-76 as my own personal nirvana.
So, what do I like? Let’s get technical.
D-76 produces excellent shadow detail with normal contrast, plus a pretty fine grain with a bunch of black-and-white films. Yes, even T-Max and Delta. Using a 1:1 dilution will yield even greater sharpness. It’s exactly that sharpness I love, but without losing all grain. No Photoshop unnatural noise filters needed here. Not to mention it’s very long density range and latitude that I personally think exceeds other developers when extreme pushing, and yet still resulting in very little fog. (not that I would do that 😊 )
Anyway, that’s my two cents. And many people will tell you that’s all it’s worth. But if you’re into film, and the serene Zen of the darkroom, do give it a try.